The RealReal released their Annual Resale Report yesterday and, to no surprise, all the big names have each claimed their spots. Gucci. Louis Vuitton. Chanel. Prada. Hermès. Dior. The list of the year’s top brands reads, for the most part, as you would expect. But scrolling through the rest of the findings, there’s one name I didn’t anticipate seeing: St. John. This sleeper brand is quickly gaining traction on the secondary market. Searches for the brand’s classic suits and sets are up 32% year over year to date.
Known for their knitwear, St. John is an American luxury house founded in 1962. Their foundation is simple: timeless, elegant design. Unfortunately, that ethos has skewed stuffy in recent years, or at least the general reputation has. But you can thank one well-known brand for that, one who knows how to put a youthful spin on seemingly dated concepts and materials: the tweed maestro itself, Chanel.
Shoppers have realized old St. John looks startlingly similar to classic Chanel silhouettes, specifically the jackets and skirt suits—just ask Tiktok. The pieces tackle the same ‘80s and ‘90s feminine work and leisure-wear tropes in silhouette (blazers, collarless jackets, and evening outerwear) and material (tweed, wool, and silk). The details follow suit, as well. Think contrast trim, exaggerated shoulders, and oversized buttons. Senior Lead of Women’s Fashion and Strategic Partnerships at The RealReal Editorial Lead, Noelle Sciacca, notes that these seemingly dated items are generally popular across all age ranges, but the recent spike is due largely to millennials and Gen-Z consumers. The sleeper brand, or at least their pre-owned pieces, has piggy-backed much of its success on Chanel’s youth-oriented marketing strategy.
Sciacca recounts when Olivia Rodrigo wore a vintage Chanel skirt suit to meet President Biden in 2021. (She, of course, then styled it with white Giuseppe Zanotti platform pumps and black socks.) “Chanel is one of those brands that has a spotlight in almost all of our stores across our retail fleet because it always does well,” says Sciacca. “And we see it with all different demographics. She’s 80 or she’s 18—people are wearing those jackets with a pair of jeans.” Hanan Besovic of popular fashion meme Instagram account @ideservecouture reiterates the notion. In most collections, he says, you can find looks that cater to different different demographics in styling. “They’re trying to cater to everybody, but they’re still trying to make it exclusive,” he says, noting recent price increases.
“I think half of their problems are already solved by the name,” Besovic tells me. They’ve made a tweed skirt set desirable to twenty-year-olds. “We’re talking about something that is so, and I hate to use the word iconic, but I am going to use it here because it really is iconic. The suit kind of sells itself,” he explains. “It is a synonym, just like their logo is a synonym, for Chanel.”
St. John isn’t benefiting from Chanel alone. Sciacca notes that skirt suits of similar varieties have popped up in the collections of Miu Miu, Bottega Veneta, and Christian Dior, each putting their own flair on the timeless silhouette. Celine repeatedly champions a similar idea in their many iterations of the collarless jacket. All of this “teed up” St. John’s return. “Then, this year, we stepped into that old money, quiet luxury aesthetic,” she continues. “I think it’s a perfect cultural-moment storm that’s happening to put this stuff back in favor.”
But there’s a tweed-clad elephant in the room. “St. John is significantly less expensive than Chanel on our site,” she reflects. Most evening jackets appear to sell for under $250, a number retailing under $100. Whereas most Chanel jackets resell for over $1,000. “It’s like an economically friendly dupe because I feel like that generation, dupe is the thing they’re all hunting for. It is shopping that aesthetic, but still from a luxury brand with quality materials that has resale value and second and third lives.” Derek Lam 10 Crosby, Maje, Rebecca Taylor, and Sandro have each seen spikes of 75%, 63%, 60%, and 51% in searches for tweed jackets respectively.
“I think whoever makes that type of a suit, with tweed especially, is going to immediately be labeled as knockoff Chanel.”
Sciacca notes this isn’t the first time something like this has played out in the secondary market and, by default, their site. When Miu Miu reinvigorated our love of ballet flats a few seasons ago with their satin ballerinas, The RealReal saw spikes in French ballet shoe company Repetto, and even in Ferragamo ballet flats. We do see that people latch onto these trends, but they’re like, ‘How can I get that in a more approachable price point?’ Because those Miu Miu ballet flats were still fairly expensive even on our site and still are.”
Back on the primary market, the crossover might be less accidental. “I think whoever makes that type of a suit, with tweed especially, is going to immediately be labeled as knockoff Chanel, which, to be honest, is not that crazy to do.” He references both Saint Laurent’s tweed-filled Fall ‘21 collection and Moschino’s work in the ‘80s as examples of designers experimenting with Chanel’s DNA, whether purposeful or not. “Nothing is stopping you from making a tweed skirt,” says Besovic. “If someone else interprets it as a Chanel skirt, that is their problem. I hate to say this, but it is smart. You’re tapping into something that you know is going to make you money. It’s business at this point.” Unlike a logo, no one owns a fabric. “It’s kind of like Prada saying, ‘You cannot use nylon because I made nylon bags.’”
On the subject of “dupe culture,” the incendiary counterfeit (predominantly fast fashion) scene, he feels the phenomenon’s rising popularity is unavoidable. Its resale counterpart, which Sciacca calls a “luxury dupe,” is a sort of healthier alternative. It’s a method of discovery to experiment with a popular aesthetic without buying something new. “I think that for people who cannot afford stuff like this, it is the only way to feel fashionable, and I completely understand that,” Besovic says. “Honestly, if I did not have the funds for it, I would look for stuff that is very similar to the look that I want to achieve.”
Source : COVETEUR